When we consider the matter of God’s will for our life, we usually think of major issues of guidance. For example, Which school should I attend? What job/career should I pursue? How can I use my talents/spiritual gift(s)? Whom should I marry? Where should I live? Although these kind of decisions do need divine guidance, most of God’s will is described for us practically in God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16,17).
Consider this threefold command as stated in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
pray without ceasing,
in everything give thanks…”
Grammatically, these are present tense commands. And they are expanded in duration (“always”, “without ceasing”), and in scope (“in everything”). Wow, that’s a tall order!
Although all of God’s prescriptive Scriptures (in New Covenant context) are God’s will for us, sometimes this is explicitly stated to underline a directive’s wisdom and importance: “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (verse 19). All three should be taken together. As John Wesley observed, “For this — That you should thus rejoice, pray, give thanks. Is the will of God — Always good, always pointing at our salvation.”
Have you noticed our natural tendency toward the opposite attitudes? The self-life slips into the rut of complaining, neglecting prayer, and feeling entitled… And we see these humanistic reactions in society and entertainment as “normal”.
Recently we went on a vacation trip to visit relatives in South Carolina. The Lord laid 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 on my heart to keep on the back burner during the week. (If/when I savor a Scripture like this, it helps me see new insights and fresh applications.) This triple counsel of rejoice/pray/thank was confirmed in various circumstances during our vacation. We got to the beach and loved the vista of the ocean. (Hallelujah, what a Creator!) A shark swam by but didn’t bother us (gulp; yeah!). Our grandson had the painful symptoms of an infection (poor guy; we prayed for him). Yet, by the time he had tests come back at the walk-in clinic, there was no sign infection (Thank You! – a welcome answer). We had some potentially destructive car trouble, but it did not cause any disruption and was repaired at no charge after we returned to Tennessee (Thank you, Lord!).
So, how do we diligently rejoice, pray and give thanks? By trying harder? Being determined?
While our will is involved (these commands are addressed to our will), we have supernatural resources to live this way. Notice the next verse in the passage: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19; see Rom. 8:9). We infer from this that God’s Spirit (Who indwells us as believers) is prompting and enabling joy, prayer and gratitude. This reminds us of other aspects of the fruit that He produces in and through us (Gal. 5:22,23).
God’s sanctifying grace is available to change us from the inside out:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:23,24).
Therefore, demonstrating consistent joy, faithful prayer, and daily thanksgiving are indications of a responsive life–Christ living His Life in and through us (John 15:1-5).
The triple virtues of faith, hope, and love are relevant here as well (1 Cor. 13:13; 1 Thess. 1:3).
- In faith we discern God’s providence and give thanks (Neh. 12:8,24,27).
- In hope we claim God’s promises and rejoice (Rom. 5:2).
- In love we appreciate God’s grace and pray (Eph 3:17-19).
As we walk in the Spirit this way, we will also be more prepared to discern God’s will on the bigger decisions we face.
So, remember this summary of God’s will for your life: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks…” These expressions of a Christ-centered life form “a threefold cord [that] is not quickly broken.” 
Prayer: “Spirit of God, continue to kindle joy, prayer, and gratitude in our hearts. Protect us from knee jerk reactions to circumstances, and equip us to be responsive overcomers.”
 See Grace Note, Spiritual Navigation
 Ecclesiastes 4:12
Copyright 2015 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.